SUREPThe Budget Office of the Federation has said N500 billion is not missing from the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P) account as alleged by the Senate.

An official of the Budget Office said the office don’t have up to 50 per cent of the amount in its books.

The source accused the Senate of distracting the Office from preparing the 2014 budget prior to the President’s submission to the National Assembly on Tuesday.

The Budget Office refused to be drawn into any debate over the whereabouts of the money until they have concluded work on the nnext year’s budget.

The officials of the Budget Office, the agency which serves as the accounting hub for SURE-P, said they would not speak on the matter citing civil service rules.

They said the office works with whatever the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) remits to it and that any claims of missing funds should be directed to the oil giant.

They also asked if the N800 billion allegedly funnelled to SURE-P was for the three tiers of government or the Federal Government alone.

The SURE-P was set up by President Goodluck Jonathan, as an interventionist committee to manage the proceeds from fuel subsidy removal.

It is funded with the difference or the savings which would have been used to subsidise imported premium motor spirit (PMS) had there been full subsidy for the product. By implication, the difference between N65 per litre cost of PMS as full subsidy and N97 the price of PMS from partial withdrawal of subsidy, is what the government uses to fund SURE-P. The money saved is shared among the three tiers of government.

However, SURE-P in carrying out the mandate of reinvesting the Federal Government’s share, established a fund management structure. In the structure, the Director-General, Budget Office of the Federation (DG Budget Office) is designated as the accounting officer for SURE-P.

The account of the programme is, therefore, domiciled in the Office of the Director-General, Budget Office of the Federation.

After the committee has approved payments for projects, the chairman signs, then the DG Budget Office, as the accounting officer, processes the approvals, after which the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) makes payments to beneficiaries.

On the annual budget, it has been revealed that some measure of politicking influences budget implementation in some states. Another source at the Budget Office, admitted that more capital projects included the budget are executed in states controlled by the ruling party than in those controlled by the opposition.

He said only a fraction of the capital projects in the budget for states controlled by the opposition party are executed by the Federal Government, noting that in some cases, funds for the projects in opposition held states are diverted to projects in states controlled by the ruling party.

This development may not be unconnected with the persistent poor performance of the budget, which has been a source of friction between the executive and the legislature. This admittance from the corridors of the executive arm of government raises questions about budget implementation.

[The Nation]